Tagged with Utah

Apple Butter Cookies

Apple ButterThis easy recipe for very old-fashioned-sounding cookies comes from the lone vegan cookbook on the shelves at the otherwise exhaustively stocked kitchen store, Gygi, in Salt Lake City.  A typical trip there goes something like this: go to pick up only a package of parchment paper sheets and – - leave, pushing a shopping cart with aforementioned parchment (in two sizes) several small pieces of china that were “on sale,” plastic lids for half-sheet baking pans, an elf-sized spatula perfect for prying recalcitrant brownies out of pans, colorful paper muffin cups and yet another set of measuring spoons.  Will it be long before I enter Gygi and a la Norm at Cheers I am greeted with a hearty shout of “Annie!!”?

Oh right, the cookbook.  It’s called The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes, by Kris Holechek.  A very nice collection of recipes; we’ll be spending a lot of time together.  Per my usual method, I used predominantly whole wheat flour, halved the sugar, halved the fat and added nuts.

One last very important thing: thank you again to all of you who have reached out to offer support, condolences, love and wisdom over the past weeks.  Your heartfelt words have warmed and comforted me.

Apple Butter Cookies
Makes ~ 2 dozen

Pitcher, Glass1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. powdered stevia
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup apple butter (I used R.W. Knudsen’s organic which has no added sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped and toasted nuts

In a small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, stevia, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and maple sugar.  Add in the banana, apple butter and vanilla, using a whisk to create a smooth mixture (it will look a little curdled).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches and mix until well-combined – then stir in the chopped nuts.

Either put the batter into the refrigerator for a few hours to firm up (at which point you can roll the dough into balls and flatten to make nice, round cookies) or – preheat the oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment and simply drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the cookie sheets.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until firm and lightly browned on the bottoms.
Cookies on a Plate

Cookies on a Plate, Bite

Apple Butter Cookie

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Good Stuff

Cream Deodorant in JarSo I’m back in the (sweltering hot) sticks – at least for a little while.  I’m on Ike Duty for a few days and our first order of business was a trip to Whole Foods in Oklahoma City.  We were there, panting in front of the big, shiny windows when they opened the doors at 8 am, a long list and politically-correct shopping bags in hand.  We picked up, among other wonderful items, some extra virgin coconut oil and a bunch of essential oils so that I could whip up a batch of Somer’s Patented Pit Paste (I added the Patented, just cuz it sounds all snazzy with the extra p-word thrown in) as I’d forgotten to pack my beloved Soapwalla deodorant cream.  It took me all of about 5 minutes to make a small jar of the stuff.  Smells great and looks like something I’d smother in chocolate sauce and eat with a spoon.

Tearoom Delights Guidebook

There was a big pile of mail waiting for me, most of which I converted directly to recyclables, save for a couple of nice things like an issue of VegNews, enough New Yorker magazines to provide reading material for the next 6 months and a wee, wonderful book from Lorna over at Tearoom Delights.  A loyal follower of Lorna’s funny and yummy blog about tea, confections and travels, I needed to have my own copy of her newly-published guide.  One day – who knows – I may be able to put it to practical use!  Anyway, I’m so happy to have it and am really proud of Lorna for her accomplishment.  Word on the street is she’s already begun book number two.  To find out how to get your very own copy, visit Teacups Press.  If you ask nice, she might even sign it, just as she did my copy.

AstigVegan CollageAlso waiting for me was my prize from AstigVegan for bidding on the VSPCA (via Richa at Hobby and More) online auction a few months back.  The ladies at AstigVegan generously donated a gift set and I was determined to snag their neat package of goodies: pili nut cheese (sadly all gone by the time I got home) a canvas bag and a fantastic “cookbooklet” with the top recipes from RG and TJ’s creative site.  They did a great job of putting this ‘let together and I’m thrilled to have it.  I am looking forward to diving into their unusual (at least for this Heinz 57 Variety American) and delicious-sounding Filipino recipes.

Time to get back into the kitchen – how I’ve missed it!  Got a long list of goodies to make before I head back to Utah.

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Thankful & Thoughtful

Boots, Helmet, Ski Poles

What made him tick.

The things alive do not know the secret… Of late years, however, I have come to suspect that the mystery may just as well be solved in a carved and intricate seed case out of which life has flown, as in the seed itself.  – Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

My brother died at 3:25 am July 5.  The pop and sizzle of neighbors’ firecrackers kept him company that night, gray skies and a gentle rain in the morning broke the spell of heat and drought and sun; more soothing than melancholy.  Determined and independent in his dying days as he was as a vibrant, healthy man, I have no doubt his plan was to make it through July 4; July was his favorite month and Independence Day his favorite holiday.

In the hours and days after his death, little things took on weighted importance: the memory of the last meal together at a restaurant; the image of a sweet smile when at last voice and words, but not comprehension, were taken from him; the half-full glass of water by his bed; the backpack on the kitchen table containing bottles of aspirin, ear plugs and a bathing suit from the last trip he took (to California); the tube of toothpaste, indented in the middle by the squeeze of his hand; his beat-up work boots looking as if he’d stepped out of them mere moments before.  It is those things more than the profound and sobering permanence of passing that make me break down.  What is more poignant than the little, seemingly insignificant objects and moments that make up a human life?

Anyone who has suffered through an illness or has helped a family member or friend knows that it is not a solo project.  It is a team effort requiring tens of supporting and supportive roles.  And so I have many people to thank.  First and foremost among them, my family.  My mom and dad dug deep and called on reserves that any 20-year old would envy.  Their strength and dignity through that lonesome night of loss is an example I will carry with me.  My other brother whose advise and care steadied during moments of stress and uncertainty.  My sister was a rock, holding firm during times when I melted like a candle.  Love to my partner, Kel, for keeping the home fires stoked and for caring for our little (furry) one, Ike.  His support has never wavered.  He loved my brother.  The caring embrace of extended family was felt over the long miles.

It is impossible to imagine what this process would have been like without the guidance, knowledge and compassion of our hospice team.  There were many late night visits and phone calls – moments of doubt and fear made manageable by a comforting voice on the other end of the line.  Stacey, Robyn and Carolyn guided us down that very difficult road.  Special gratitude goes to John, the gentle aide who helped my brother maintain his pride and dignity up to that very last day of life.  We were also fortunate to meet Riley, a young man who made our nights easier by his patient presence and his willingness to be touched by a family’s saddest hours.

Thanks and love go to the many friends – old and new, near and far – who sent emails and called.  The comments both here and on Facebook were deeply appreciated.  In challenging times, the true and the false are shown in stark relief: some of my brother’s friends reached lovingly out to us, shared aspects of him we never knew and offered to help in any way that they could.  Fate or coincidence sent Somer into my life at just the right moment.  She shared her huge, loving, nurturing heart with my brother, but also loaded the back of her vehicle – several times – with plant-based deliciousness and made the trek to Bountiful to spend time with me and open her arms for much-needed hugs.  Her beautiful kids never failed to cheer me with their exuberance and their life and energy.  Along with her friends Amanda and Erika (who have never met me, by the way) she provided heart, soul and stomach nourishment.  Thank you ladies of the Good Clean Food Relief Society.

In a strange twist, Faye came into my life on the very day my brother died and at the very coffee shop where he and I would go after his appointments at the clinic.  Over mutual admiration for short haircuts, I learned that Faye has the same type of brain cancer as my brother.  I’m not one to linger long on the oddities the universe occasionally throws across my path, but one would have to be devoid of imagination not to think something rather huge was up.  I hope to spend a lot more time with Faye and to share with her the thin threads of knowledge gathered over the past couple of years.

Merck and Genentech earned my gratitude for providing their prohibitively costly chemo drugs gratis through their assistance programs; big pharmaceuticals aren’t all bad.  Novocure not only requires thanks for pursuing interesting cancer treatment options, I’m indebted to them for giving my brother – free – their Novocure TTF helmet, a recently FDA-approved alternative treatment using electric fields to disrupt cancer cell growth.  Dr. Santosh Kesari at his lab at UCSD prescribed the device and he also, up until the last weeks of my brother’s life, suggested other treatment options.

Lastly, thanks to my brother’s medical team at The Huntsman Cancer Institute, especially to sweet Crelley who has become a friend, and Sean, who spent hours with me on the phone over the past two years explaining complex issues and trying to figure out what made my brother tick.  From the beginning of this journey they provided hope and knowledge and gave my brother another year of life when all seemed lost on bleak November days in 2010.  I often wonder how they can work day after day knowing that many of their patients will live only a short time post-diagnosis.  I am grateful there are people willing to devote their lives to treating such a formidable disease.  May a cure be found soon.

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The Spiral Jetty

Sign to Spiral JettyI don’t have a Bucket List of places around the world that I need to see before I shrug off this mortal coil, but – deep in the recesses of my mind – I do keep a list of sorts.  It’s a fairly short list of works of art that mean something to me for one reason or another.  Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to cross off the majority of the items on this mental list, but one has refused to budge.  It is, in fact, geographically the closest piece to me, yet it has remained frustratingly elusive.  Until recently, that is.

Strung out along the edge of Rozel Point on the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the earthwork Spiral Jetty was created by Robert Smithson over a few week period in April 1970.  It’s a delicate tendril of basalt rock and salt crystals that curls 1,500 feet out into the sometimes pink, sometimes red waters.  Come when the level of the lake is high (as we did) and the spiral nearly disappears.  At other times, one can walk onto the lake to the very end of the spiral and turn back to look at the shore and the scrubby brown hills rising away from it.

There is some work, planning and dedication involved in visiting the Jetty, although recent improvements to the gravel road out to the site have made going there relatively easy.  But it is in the middle of nowhere; Smithson chose his site perfectly.  The isolation and remoteness of the Jetty make it the ideal place for contemplation, reflection, connecting with the natural world or just a pleasant afternoon hike.  Lake and sky blend together at the horizon, the wind is constant, waves of yellow-green algae sweep along the jumbled surface of the Jetty and salt crystals sparkle among the black rocks as pelicans fly their steady, patient beat high above.  Smithson’s creation doesn’t impose on or overwhelm the surroundings.  Though obviously man-made, it feels like a natural extension of the shore (unlike the decaying relic of a true jetty not far from the Spiral Jetty).  Spending time with the Jetty is not unlike the feeling one gets from a long and satisfying yoga session.

All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life and the love which that beauty inspires.
― Edward Abbey, The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West

Now, after extolling the virtues of this mystical place, I’m going to do my best Edward Abbey imitation by both encouraging you to go see this treasure – and imploring you to stay away.  Although it is made of rocks, the Spiral is touchingly fragile.  Too many feet will quickly destroy what has endured for the past forty-two years.  Not too long ago, Spiral-seekers needed 4-wheel drive, sturdy hiking boots (the last few miles had to be walked) and a true love of art and nature in order to pay homage to Smithson’s masterpiece.  Now anyone in a low-slung sedan can cruise to the edge of the Jetty, lean out of the car window to snap a photo, and speed off again, leaving a plume of light brown desert dust behind him.  If you come, come with respect, tread lightly and leave in awe of what nature can inspire in man.

The Road In

The road in.


A lucky tribe of horses.


Water meets sky.

Rock Cairn

A rock cairn at an old, abandoned jetty not far from the Spiral Jetty.

Salt-splashed Rocks

Salt spray on rocks.

Old Pier

This is not the Spiral Jetty.


Black-winged pelicans.

Salt on Rocks

Salt, looking like snow.

Spiral Start

Where the Jetty begins.

Spiral Jetty From Above

The Spiral Jetty, from above and under water.

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Best Friends Forever: Soup and a Sandwich

Plate w Soup & SandwichIn the heart of Salt Lake City, there’s a wonderful bookstore that from the outside, looks like an average-sized city shop.  But once inside, one can get lost in its labyrinthine basement rooms, alcoves, nooks, balconies and stacks and stacks of books, both new and used.  Wandering around inside is a great way to spend an afternoon.

My first stop in any bookshop is the cookbook section.  The day I visited that Salt Lake bookstore, I walked out with three used cookbooks, one of which was a Cooking Light publication called Fresh Food Fast.  I liked the idea of recipes with short ingredient lists, plus every item was paired with another recipe so that you could prepare a full meal off of one page.  On the downside, the cookbook is rich in meat and dairy, and also relies heavily on pre-packaged products.  Nevertheless, I’ve been able to cull out some good eats from its pages.

I did some major overhauling on both the soup and the sandwich recipes, so I won’t go into to detail, but simply put, I replaced anything dairy with a vegan counterpart and nixed pre-packaged items for “the real things,” plus added flavors and ingredients here and there.  Cooking oil was out.  This soup/sandwich combination is really nice.  The soup isn’t sweet as one might expect and it has a nice warm kick from the fresh ginger.  The sandwich is where a little sweetness comes in, but the sprouts and cashew cream nicely temper the juicy pears and sticky cinnamon swirl in the bread.  Perfect rainy day lunch combo.

Carrot-Ginger Soup
Serves 4

2 tbsp. orange juice, water or vegetable broth
Sliced Carrots, Orange Zest, Grated Ginger1 medium-sized onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 oz. sliced carrots
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup unsweetened, plain soy milk
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
dried thyme, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the orange juice, water or vegetable broth, just until they being to soften.  Add the sliced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, ginger and orange zest.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender and return the liquid to the saucepan.  Stir in the soy milk, maple syrup, thyme and black pepper.  Gently reheat – don’t let it boil.  While the soup heats, prepare the sandwiches.

Plate of Pears

Pear-Walnut-Cashew Cream & Sprouts Sandwiches
Serves 2

4 slices Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
1 tbsp. walnuts, roasted and chopped
2 tbsp. cashew cream*
1/2 cup fresh sprouts
1 Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

Fresh Sprouts

Lightly toast the bread, then spread cashew cream on all four pieces.  Sprinkle one slice of each sandwich with the toasted walnuts.  Divide the pear slices between the sandwiches, top with sprouts and gently press the sandwiches together.  Slice in half and serve alongside the soup.

Slices of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

*I used the cashew cream recipe in Vegan Yum Yum, by Lauren Ulm.

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